California's Railroad to the U.S. 1861 - 1996

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Model Train Help EBook

(SSW) Cotton Belt

"American Flyer" Passenger Cars

(Very) Brief History:

10 cars built by Osgood-Bradley division of Pullman-Standard for Cotton Belt in 1937. Numbered 400-409, later renumbered 200-209 in 1940. Original paint was Pullman Dark Olive with a light gray or aluminum roof and aluminum-bronze lettering. Later painted in Cotton Belt's version of the Daylight scheme with an aluminum roof. Two spent two years on the T&NO on separate occasions, all were transferred to the Southern Pacific by 1961, starting in 1954.

After transfer the full length skirting was removed. The first two transferred received two-tone gray paint, the rest Simulated Stainless Steel with Red Letterboard.

They were lettered St. Louis Southwestern while on the Cotton Belt, and Southern Pacific when repainted after transfer.

Photos show them on the Del Monte still in Daylight paint and lettered SSW, on the Argonaut, the Owl and the Senator in various paint and lettering schemes.

see references for more complete information

Below is spcifically for modifying the ECW HO Scale kits,
but there are now O Scale Cars available:
Petersen Supply LTD Edition SSW Cars
and Weaver Models Catalog Page for SSW Cars

Modeling the American Flyer Cars
or Accurizing the Eastern Car Works Kit

The HO Scale Eastern Car Works Kit is for a New Haven prototype and the Cotton Belt cars differ in window placement, air-conditioning hatch size and possibly trucks. Although the kit trucks do bear some resemblance to photos, and with the full length skirting in place it probably won't matter. As far as the roof vents are concerned, of the three in the kit, there is one type that may fit the bill, but only 4 are supplied and you need seven... The kits can be built with or without full skirting, cut guide lines are provided on the back of each side to guide you in what and how much you want to remove.

These cars are described as 'smoothside' cars, (as against corrugated sided), but in this case are riveted not welded. The ECW kit has in my opinion rather heavy representations of the rivets, these may tone down with a coat or two of paint.

As always study as many references as you can, then plan where to make the cuts.

Molded in the skirting, are raised lines representing the hinged access doors to make servicing of the trucks and underbody equipment easier. Just making the vertical cuts all the way through the sides, then gluing the pieces back together in the correct order will mean that the access doors will have to be redone. A couple of choices that I can think of are; remove or smooth off the raised lines, then scribed in the correct pattern after reassembly using the unmodified side as a template, or only make the vertical cuts down to the skirt removal guide line, then make horizontal cut on the back of the side freeing the pieces for reassembly.

Use either the thinnest saw(blade) you can to make the vertical cuts and measure the thickness of the cut before cutting all the way through the side, then use a hobby knife to make the horizontal cut. Then on reassembly use styrene strip filler pieces the same thickness of the sawcut to bring the overall length of the side back to the original length; or use a hobby knife to make the cuts hoping that no material will be sacrificed remembering that knives usually leave a raised edge that will need to be smoothed and that you are cutting between very narrow rivet lines that could be damaged in the smoothing process. Make sure that all your cuts are as square as you can make them.

Click on all the photos to see the full size image

Above is a scan of the kit side as supplied. Looking at the right-hand end, you will see a single window in a wide spacing, this end remains as is. At the left-hand end you will see one single window that needs to be moved to the right one double window.

Below is a scan showing where to make the vertical cuts. Remember to consider how you will redo the access doors in this area.

Below is a cut'n'paste of the vertical cuts to show exactly what needs to be done, compare the two scans by noting double and single windows at the left-hand end and noting the placement.

What the finished side should look like.

Now you need to do the other side, but remember, that you need to do the right-hand end this time.

An air-conditioning plant access hatch will need to be fashioned for the roof, dimensions will have to be estimated and its position is at the revised end with the repositioned double window. Thoughts at this stage is a 10thou styrene overlay.

Vent position looks to be the higher of the two marked on the inside of the ECW roof. Three roof vents will need to be placed on the side with the double window at the right-hand end. Four vents will need to be positioned on the other side. Look to photos for placement. The vents will be a problem, as only 4 are supplied and you need seven. Either aftermarket vents will have to be purchased or scratchbuilt (shaped) from suitable styrene.

Paint Schemes:

  • Original overall Dark Olive with aluminum or light gray roof and aluminum-bronze St. Louis Southwestern lettering; black underbody and trucks,
  • Cotton Belt Daylight paint with aluminum roof and aluminum-bronze St. Louis Southwestern lettering; black underbody and trucks,
  • Overall Dark Olive with aluminum or light gray roof, and aluminum-bronze Southern Pacific lettering; black underbody and trucks,
  • Overall Dark Olive with aluminum or light gray roof, and aluminum-bronze number and no roadname; black underbody and trucks,
  • Two-tone Gray and aluminum-bronze Southern Pacific lettering; black underbody and trucks,
  • Simulated Stainless Steel with scarlet letterboard and aluminum-bronze Southern Pacific Lettering; dark gray underbody and trucks.

The window frames were always bare aluminum, except in the Simulated Stainless Steel scheme, they may still be aluminum but as the whole car side was painted simulated stainless steel they are not as prominent a feature.


Hopefully St. Louis Southwestern decals will soon be available.


  • Southern Pacific Passenger Cars Vol.1 Coaches and Chair Cars - SPHTS
  • Trainline Issue 12 American Flyer Cars Part 1.
  • Trainline Issue 14 American Flyer Cars Part 2.
  • Cotton Belt Route Color Pictorial - Steve Goen
  • Cotton Belt Locomotives - Joe Strapac
  • TRRA Historical Society issue #40-41 on SSW trains

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